The questions my research most centrally engages fall squarely within the purview of philosophy as traditionally construed, and can be neither straightforwardly nor fully answered by empirical research. In order to understand features of the mind that are relevant to philosophical theorizing however my approach to such questions does draw upon a wide range of empirical sciences of the mind/brain, including cognitive neuropsychology, social psychology, and psychiatry. Pursuing this approach in a responsible way often requires in-depth engagement with messy and complicated empirical literatures. This depth of engagement situates the bulk of my work within the philosophy of psychology and cognitive neuroscience, while the topics pursued situate it within the philosophy of mind.
My monograph "SPLIT" BRAINS AND SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS (under contract with OUP) concerns the proper psychological characterization and philosophical interpretation of so-called “split-brain” subjects, i.e. human beings who have undergone surgical sectioning of the corpus callosum, the major white matter fiber tract connecting the two cerebral hemispheres. Behavioral experiments with split-brain subjects famously reveal that their hemispheres appear to operate unusually independently of each other in the psychological realm, raising questions about personal identity in split-brain subjects.
Philosophers have overwhelmingly argued either that a split-brain subject is one person with one mind, or (less commonly) that such a subject constitutes person, each with their own mind. The account defended in this work however, and in a few related articles, is that even when the two hemispheres of a split-brain subject are associated with distinct conscious minds, the split-brain subject as a whole is nonetheless one person, in an interesting and normatively significant psychological sense. The basic reason for this is that each hemisphere appears to subjectively identify (assume that it itself is) the human being as a whole. They therefore cannot interact with each other in distinctively interpersonal ways; nor can they interact with other parties in distinctively interpersonal ways—not as distinct beings, anyway. This capacity is required for personhood, and it is a capacity that they can exercise only together as parts of one person.
Research on the book has been supported in part by the Quinn Fellowship at the National Humanities Center during the academic year, 2014-2015.
In addition to the split-brain phenomenon my published and developing work addresses the nature of the unity of consciousness, the relationship between having a unified consciousness and being a unitary subject of experience, the place of self-consciousness and self-conception in social life, and the distinction between what I call asocial versus social forms of self-deception.